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A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure    by Marlena de Blasi order for
Thousand Days in Tuscany
by Marlena de Blasi
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

After writing A Thousand Days in Venice, Marlena de Blasi and her husband Fernando made a decision to move to Tuscany. While she is a little vague about their reasons for the move, I concluded that Fernando couldn't stand to be cooped up in a small banker's office one minute longer.

Arriving in San Casciano dei Bagni with all their worldly possessions, they fall immediately in love with the village, its inhabitants, and the converted stable that they rent from an absentee landlord. The broad Tuscan sky, the friendly church bells, the local vintage that permeates everyone's day all entrance the couple. Very precious to them, though, is the food cooked with loving care and homage as it must have been cooked for generations.

Most beloved of all is Barlozzo, who teaches them the ways of the villagers and instills history into receptive ears, as well as the proper way to harvest wine grapes and to gather chestnuts. He teaches them to recognize wild grasses and herbs that make magnificent salads dressed delicately with local virgin olive oil.

The attitude to food that this chef and food writer conveys to her readers is one of awe and reverence. Of one Saturday in a village market, she says, 'I'm in a rapture over a wooden box of lettuces, little ruffled nosegays of them. Leaves like satin cream or yellow speckled in winey red, some of them green as limes, frilled in pink. Most of all I want to feel them in my hands, taste them.'

Marlena and Fernando are quickly assimilated into the village and experience the villagers' sharing of food and methods of cooking. I shall look at food as more than something to sustain life now. It is a gift to be appreciated and handled with loving care.

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